Buckland’s What Is A Document (1998) and Organizing Information: Chapter 1

I find inspiration in the treatment of documents, and thus, the treatment of information that needs to be processed and reposited, in Buckland’s text. Documents can be conceived of as evidence, or impressions/traces of activity that may be worthy of study. Objects become documents when they are treated as documents, just as an image is made art through a similar “framing” process. I feel that creating documents or sorting information of all kinds is an ethical task, and how these secondary documents or traces of knowledge are sorted is also of ethical importance. The person who organizes “artifacts, samples, specimens, texts” or other objects is in a position to consider what purpose it may serve as evidence and how it can best be presented. Documents need to be arranged for the possibility that, in the future, they may be used in different ways.

The ability to store and organize representations of physical/conceptual knowledge is one of humankind’s most significant tasks, and the ability to access information from the past is invaluable. Learning about organizing both physical and virtual objects, and processing them into documents, is this is the intention behind this course. If you imagine all of the different “things” of this world that can be recorded, sorted, and stored, the task begins to seem infinite.

In the first chapter of Chowdhury’s textbook, the vocabularies that apply to the task of organizing information seem overwhelming at first glance. Traditional library approaches of how to organize all of these “things”, such as controlled vocabularies, bibliographies/catalogues, or subject classification are familiar enough, but the “ontologies” of the semantic web, taxonomy in metadata, and XML organization is an entirely new language. Librarians and information professionals need to be versed in all of the different languages or vocabularies of organization, for as we see in our everyday lives, certain systems work better in some circumstances than in others. A walk-in closet organized alphabetically or by thread count would be an absolute nightmare.

– Jacky Connolly


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